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Planning a Relaxed Family Vacation in Sri Lanka

After booking our tickets to Sri Lanka, we made a promise to ourselves: we were going to enjoy this country in a relaxed manner. This meant skipping certain locations and sights. After all, nothing is more stressful than adhering to a tight schedule, especially with three little kids aged 7, 5, and 2. We knew that simply being in Sri Lanka would be a fantastic experience. While we planned to visit some key spots, relaxation was our top priority. So, I’m delighted to share our “relaxed” itinerary for a family trip through Sri Lanka with you.

Embarking on a Family Adventure in Sri Lanka: Starting in Negombo

Our family adventure in Sri Lanka begins in Negombo, a bustling town just a half-hour taxi ride from the airport in Colombo. Despite its ongoing construction and not being the most scenic route, Negombo offers a plethora of restaurants and hotels. We spent three relaxing days by the pool at our hotel, Ronny Cottage.

Traveling Inland: From Negombo to Kandy

From Negombo, we took a two-hour taxi ride inland to the Veyangoda train station. Here, we waited for the train to Kandy, the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. As we boarded the train, we quickly realized we weren’t the only ones heading to Kandy. It was a national holiday, and it seemed like half of Sri Lanka was en route to the capital. The train was packed to the brim with locals and tourists alike, making for a truly immersive experience.

Our family, complete with three large travel bags, a buggy, and three little kids, found ourselves in the middle portal with 15 other Sri Lankan people. We could barely move, but the kids were more fascinated by the train’s lack of doors than the crowd. As the journey progressed, some passengers disembarked, allowing us to sit for the last two hours of the four-hour journey. Despite the lack of air-conditioning and the still crowded conditions, we enjoyed the unique experience, even as local vendors tried to sell us their delicacies.

Exploring Kandy: A Family Adventure in Sri Lanka

Our family adventure in Sri Lanka begins in the charming city of Kandy. Our hotel is conveniently located just a 20-minute drive from the city center. Nestled against a hill, it offers a delightful pool for the kids to enjoy.

Visiting the Temple of the Tooth

Our first day in Kandy is spent exploring the city’s cultural heritage. We take a tuk-tuk ride to visit the renowned Temple of the Tooth. While it may not be as grand as the temples in Thailand or Bali, it offers a unique experience. The kids particularly enjoy offering flower petals and watching their dad cross the street in a traditional sarong.

Discovering the Botanical Gardens

Next on our itinerary is a visit to the Botanical Gardens. Despite our initial low expectations, we are pleasantly surprised by the beauty and diversity of the park. It’s home to a wide variety of palm trees and tropical plants. The park’s expansive grounds and cool atmosphere make it a perfect spot to unwind after our journey through Kandy. The Botanical Gardens is a must-visit, especially for families with young children. It’s also a popular spot for locals, adding to the lively atmosphere.

The Bustling City of Kandy

Set amidst the hills, Kandy offers stunning views. However, be prepared for the city’s bustling traffic. Despite this, Kandy remains a captivating destination on our family round trip through Sri Lanka.

Experience Sri Lanka with Kids

Traveling with children can be a rewarding and enriching experience. Sri Lanka, with its diverse landscapes, rich culture, and friendly locals, is a fantastic destination for a family vacation. Here are some highlights and tips for traveling to Sri Lanka with kids.

Exploring Kandy

Kandy, a city in central Sri Lanka, is known for its scenic beauty and cultural significance. It’s a great place to introduce your kids to the country’s rich history and traditions. The city is home to the Temple of the Tooth, one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world. Remember to dress modestly when visiting religious sites.

Wildlife Adventures

Sri Lanka is a biodiversity hotspot, making it a paradise for nature and animal lovers. Take your kids on a safari in one of the many national parks to spot elephants, leopards, and a variety of bird species. Yala National Park and Udawalawe National Park are among the most popular.

Beach Time

The island nation is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, offering plenty of beautiful beaches. Unawatuna and Mirissa are family-friendly options with calm waters, perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

Train Journeys

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to take a scenic train ride through the lush green tea plantations. The journey from Kandy to Ella is considered one of the most beautiful train rides in the world.

Food Experiences

Sri Lankan cuisine is a feast for the senses. Introduce your kids to the local flavors with dishes like hoppers, kottu, and rice and curry. Most restaurants offer less spicy versions of dishes for children.

Traveling to Sri Lanka with kids can be an unforgettable adventure. With its mix of culture, nature, and history, it’s a destination that offers something for everyone in the family.

Embarking on a Family Adventure through Sri Lanka: Ella

Following a two-night stay in Kandy, our journey continued to Ella. We opted for a taxi for the initial three hours, then switched to a train for the final leg of the journey. The landscape we traversed was breathtakingly beautiful, characterized by lush greenery and rolling hills. Ella, nestled in the mountains, was a refreshing change from Kandy. This quaint village is dotted with charming restaurants and cozy hotels, catering to the needs of international travelers. We found ourselves indulging in the western-style hamburgers and pizzas served here.

During our first dinner in Ella, we were served by a friendly local boy who offered to guide us around the area the following day. He picked us up from our hotel in his compact car the next morning, and our first stop was a tea plantation. Although the factory where the tea is usually dried was not operational that day, the tour provided by the manager was so engaging that we were glad we didn’t miss it.

Experiencing Local Life in Sri Lanka

Our journey takes us to a local factory with a breathtaking view. Afterwards, a local boy guides us to an old bridge and finally to his home. Here, his wife and mother-in-law prepare us a meal. Our children are surprised to see their four-year-old boy riding a pink bike. We explain to them that in Sri Lanka, the joy of having a bike outweighs the color. The boy doesn’t have many toys, but he does have a week-old calf, which he is very proud of and our girls are curious about.

Having lunch with these locals is an incredible experience. Their hospitality is heartwarming, as they could have easily directed us to a restaurant, but chose to invite us into their home. When we reach Ella, the boy asks us to disembark 100 meters before his workplace. He doesn’t want his boss to know about his side jobs, and we respect his wishes, walking the remaining distance to our hotel.

Exploring Little Adams Peak

On our second day in Ella, we venture to “Little Adams Peak”. We hire a tuk-tuk to drop us at the start of the hiking trail. Initially, we worry about the hike being too strenuous for our girls, but our fears are unfounded. We leisurely ascend, spotting various lizards and squirrels along the way. Reaching the peak rewards us with a stunning view of the mountains. It’s a perfect trip for families, taking us about one and a half to two hours, including a substantial break. We carry our two-year-old, Jule, in an improvised carrier for most of the journey, having left our proper carrier in a tuk-tuk.

In my opinion, Ella is a must-visit destination for families touring Sri Lanka.

Embarking on a Family Adventure: A Round Trip Through Sri Lanka

After spending a week in Sri Lanka, we eagerly anticipate our next destination: Arugam Bay. Located on the east side, Arugam Bay is renowned as Sri Lanka’s surfing capital during the summer months. We’ve booked a hotel in advance to ensure a comfortable stay for the family.

Discovering the Charm of Arugam Bay

Our journey takes us to the enchanting Arugam Bay, a haven for surf enthusiasts. We find a quaint beachside hotel that immediately feels like home. Despite the scorching 40-degree heat, the cool shade provides a welcome respite. Arugam Bay exudes the laid-back surf vibe we’ve been craving.

Embracing the Surf Culture

Right outside our doorstep, the waves roll in rhythmically. On the other side of the bay, there’s a spot known as baby-beach. Here, the waves are gentler, perfect for teaching our girls to catch their first waves. Our days in Arugam Bay are filled with palm trees, surf sessions, beachside BBQs, and an abundance of fruit shakes. The girls even partake in a yoga class, fully immersing themselves in the local culture.

Exploring Kumana Park

On the sixth day of our stay, we venture out on a safari to Kumana Park. According to local guidebooks, it’s less touristy than Yala, making it an ideal choice for us. In Kumana, we encounter elephants, crocodiles, buffalos, peacocks, monkeys, and a myriad of different birds. It’s a breathtaking sight and a must-visit destination on your family trip through Sri Lanka.

Discovering the Hidden Pearl of Sri Lanka: Hiriketiya Beach

After our visit to Arugam Bay, we journeyed south to the lesser-known gem of Sri Lanka, Hiriketiya Beach. This horseshoe-shaped bay, flanked by palm trees, is a tropical paradise. The perfect waves beckoned us back into the water, making it an ideal spot for families and surfers alike. However, be aware of the local stray dogs who have a penchant for running off with unsuspecting tourists’ belongings!

Despite this minor inconvenience, Hiriketiya Beach is a delightful place, boasting several fantastic restaurants. It’s a small, relatively undiscovered spot that sees more visitors during the winter months, according to the Australian owner of our accommodation, the Salt House. This hotel comes highly recommended for those planning a family trip to Sri Lanka.

Exploring Sri Lanka with Kids: A Round Trip Route through Mirissa, Unawatuna & Hikkaduwa

Our family’s last week in Sri Lanka was spent exploring the coastal towns of Mirissa, Unawatuna, and Hikaduwa, located in the country’s south-west. We visited in August, which is considered the low season in this region. Despite the occasional rain and wind, we found the experience enjoyable, even though the sea wasn’t always inviting for a dip. The towns themselves were charming, but this part of our trip wasn’t the highlight. Perhaps visiting between October and April would offer a different experience, with more sunshine and a more inviting sea.


While in Unawatuna, we took the opportunity to visit the quaint town of Galle. It felt like stepping into a different world, with its paved streets and buildings from a bygone era. The town also boasts a variety of charming diners and shops. We stayed at the Nooit Gedacht Heritage Hotel, a place with a beautiful name and rich history.

Exploring Merissa

Our journey took us to Merissa, where we hoped to spot sea turtles. Unfortunately, due to strong currents and wind, the turtles were elusive. However, the disappointment was somewhat mitigated as we watched local Sri Lankan children taking swimming lessons in the sea, a sight that our kids found particularly entertaining.

Reflections on Our Sri Lanka Trip

Our round trip through Sri Lanka proved to be a fantastic experience! If I were to offer any advice, I would suggest spending more time inland on your next visit. Additionally, visiting all the villages in the south-west, such as Mirissa, Unawatuna, and Hikkaduwa, may not be necessary. One village visit can be more than enough, and a three-day stay should suffice.

Sri Lanka: A Less Developed, But Beautiful Country

While Sri Lanka may be less developed compared to countries like Thailand, its natural beauty is truly captivating. The country is incredibly green and makes for a great destination to spend a few weeks in. A quick tip before you embark on your journey: Don’t forget to secure your visa for Sri Lanka.

Meet Our Guest Blogger: Marieke

Today’s article is brought to you by our regular guest blogger, Marieke. Living in Zandvoort with her partner Thijs and their three daughters Jade (8), Bente (6), and Jule (2), Marieke is a seasoned traveler. She and her family are passionate about exploring new places and make it a point to save for a long trip every few years. When she’s not on the road with her family, Marieke works as a journalist for RTV Noord-Holland.

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